Dalglish: Gerrard one of Reds' greatest
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish believes captain Steven Gerrard could continue playing well into his late 30s if his fitness holds out.
The England midfielder, who will be 32 in May, signed an extension to his existing deal yesterday but has already said he is looking to go beyond his current contract.
Dalglish admits fitness will play a big part - Gerrard's last year has been dogged by a groin problem which required surgery and then an ankle infection - but sees no reason why the talismanic skipper cannot emulate Manchester United's Ryan Giggs.
"You have to wait and see how they get through injuries,'' said the Scot.
"Giggs is 38, isn't he? That's seven years down the line - that's a long time to predict - but if he's fit there's no reason why not.
"I've not got a crystal ball. I'm just delighted he's done what he's done and we have got him here.''
Dalglish has always been considered Liverpool's greatest player but the Reds boss believes Gerrard must now come into the reckoning.
"I wouldn't disagree he has certainly made a huge contribution to the club but he wouldn't be far away from being mentioned as the best player,'' he added.
"It is not just what he does in and around the first team it is what he stands for the football club as well - which is more important.
"His standing within the community is fantastic and the way he does other work happily is a great testimony to himself as well.''
Gerrard has admitted he was offered a new contract last year but refused to sign it until he had returned to playing and could prove his fitness problems were behind him.
"I was down in the dumps at the time and for them to offer me the contract extension was the boost I needed,'' he told the Liverpool Echo.
"Everyone at the club supported me so well. I agreed the extension a long time ago, I was always going to sign it, but I told them I wanted to wait until I had proved my fitness.
"I didn't think it was right to sign when I was out injured.
"I wanted to wait until I was back out there and had shown people that the injuries were all behind me.''
Gerrard confirmed he would see out his career at Anfield, after which time he will take up an ambassadorial role.
"I can only see myself playing for Liverpool Football Club now,'' he added.
"I'm very flattered that the club have offered me the chance to stay on after my playing days.
"Hopefully I can stay involved with the club and set the right example for youngsters coming through but that ambassadorial role may have to wait for a while.
"There's still a great deal I want to achieve as a player.''
Gerrard is sure to get a noisier-than-usual welcome when he leads the team out at home to Stoke tomorrow as Liverpool look to build on the positives of a midweek Carling Cup semi-final first leg victory over Manchester City, their second successive knockout win after defeating Oldham in the FA Cup a week ago.
The captain scored penalties in both those games but the Barclays Premier League now takes precedence and Dalglish is looking for his side to build on their last home success against Newcastle in late December having struggled at Anfield this season.
Stoke have proved already they are capable of causing Liverpool problems with a win at the Britannia Stadium in September but the Reds returned a month later in the Carling Cup and won.
Asked what he had learned from the two encounters Dalglish said: "If you don't score any goals, you don't get any points if you lose one at the other end.
"Every team brings a different problem and we have to deal with the problems we anticipate they'll bring.
"But they've also got to deal with our strengths and we've got a lot of them.''
After Gerrard and Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini got into a row about Glen Johnson's two-footed tackle in midweek Dalglish said he was just looking for consistency from referees.
"The discussion is not about one person's tackle against the other it is about consistency and interpretation of tackles,'' he said.
"There are always going to be inconsistencies and human error but there are laws within the game which are as clear as mud.''
Stoke boss Tony Pulis is hoping the encounter at Anfield will not see the referee come under the spotlight again like in the previous two meetings between the sides this season.
Dalglish was unhappy with a number of decisions made by match official Mark Clattenburg during his team's 1-0 league defeat at the Britannia Stadium in September.
Pulis' feelings were then similar after the Potters were beaten 2-1 at the same venue by the Merseysiders in the Carling Cup the following month.
The Welshman's criticism of referee Lee Probert on that occasion led to him being warned as to his future conduct by the Football Association and handed a £10,000 fine, which he subsequently appealed against and is still waiting to hear further news about.
There has been more controversy involving Liverpool this week after a two-footed tackle by Reds defender Glen Johnson on Manchester City's Joleon Lescott went unpunished, and Pulis does not want such issues to be at the fore once more in the game on Saturday.
"I think with every game you go into, you hope it is won and lost by the players," Pulis said.
"You hope that referees don't affect it in terms of decisions that change a game of football.
"That is all you hope for, but they are human beings and they will make mistakes like every player and manager does."
Despite the Johnson furore, Liverpool will go into the Stoke match on a high having won at City on Wednesday night to take a 1-0 lead into the second leg of their Carling Cup semi-final.
They have also been buoyed by the Gerrard contract extension, and Pulis is in no doubt as to the England midfielder's quality.
"Steven has been one of the outstanding players in the Premier League over the years," Pulis said.
"Kenny and the Liverpool supporters will be absolutely delighted to have him back. He has had a long time out and they have missed him.
"In some ways, the rest might have done him the world of good - he might come back a better player."
For Pulis himself, the game marks 400 matches in charge of Stoke.
The 53-year-old has enjoyed huge success during that time, guiding the club to promotion to the top flight, an FA Cup final and the Europa League, and Pulis has been keen to pay tribute to the support he has received from chairman Peter Coates.
"I've been very fortunate to manage this football club for that period of time and it is smashing to do it (reach 400 games) at Liverpool," Pulis said.
"I've been very lucky to work for a chairman that understands football and understands the importance of stability.
"When you have got that backing, it gives a little bit more of a sense of security, and thank goodness that is what has happened.
"There are good and bad times with everything you do - the important thing is just to stay as level as you can and keep driving forward."
Pulis said earlier this week that he would consider managing his native Wales for the memorial match for Gary Speed against Costa Rica next month if asked, but stressed today that he was not pushing for the job.
"I've no burning ambition at this present moment to be the manager of the Welsh national team," Pulis said.
"If Gary's family asked me, I wouldn't say no to that, but I'm sure Wales have people much more qualified than me and would do that job better than I would on that night.
"I don't expect a phonecall - but if it came, then I'd speak to Peter about it and we'd go from there."
Pulis has concerns ahead of Saturday's contest over defenders Jonathan Woodgate, Marc Wilson and Ryan Shotton, who are all nursing what he describes as "niggles" and will be assessed.
Andy Wilkinson could return at the back having overcome his recent knee injury, while the likes of goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, winger Matthew Etherington and striker Peter Crouch are set to be restored to the team after they were rested for last weekend's FA Cup victory at Gillingham.
Meanwhile, Pulis has revealed that he "won't be taking" VVV-Venlo striker Michael Uchebo after the 21-year-old Nigerian spent some time this week training with the Potters.